CHICAGO - The Chicago White Sox plan to give Michael Kopech whatever he needs to deal with a personal matter.
In the meantime, they have plenty of intriguing arms for their summer camp.
Kopech was excused from team activities Friday, and general manager Rick Hahn said he doesn’t have a timeline for the return of one of baseball’s top pitching prospects.
“Given the time we’re living through together I will try to answer the question that’s probably now at the top of everybody’s mind and just share the fact that currently Michael is healthy,” Hahn said on a video conference call.
Kopech is coming back from Tommy John surgery in September 2018. He hit triple-digits on the radar gun during his first spring training appearance.
He was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte on March 26 and likely would have began the year in the minors had the season started on time, but it was pushed back by the coronavirus pandemic. Now Kopech is in the mix for a major league spot depending on how long he is away from the team.
“I know it’s very general and I’m not going to get more specific than that, other than we fully support Michael and are going to provide him whatever time and resources he needs and look forward to seeing him in the future,” Hahn said. “This doesn’t just apply to Michael, this applies to everything related to this entire season. You know, things are a little bit day to day.”
Hahn said infielder Cheslor Cuthbert also missed the start of the camp because of travel issues coming from Nicaragua. Cuthbert is expected to join the team next week.
Kopech was acquired by Chicago in the December 2016 trade that sent Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox. He made his big league debut in 2018, going 1-1 with a 5.02 ERA in four starts.
The conversation about Kopech’s availability highlighted a much different picture when it comes to the team’s pitching staff than the one in place when spring training was suspended. While pitching depth was a concern back in March, the White Sox have plenty of options they can examine before the new opening day this month — and just 60 games to cover in the regular season.
Carlos Rodón is back after the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft had Tommy John in May 2019 in the latest in a series of health issues for the left-hander. Right-handers Dane Dunning, who came over in the 2016 deal that sent Adam Eaton to Washington, and Jimmy Lambert also are further along in their injury rehabs.
“Now that we’re actually fast forwarding to the second half of the season, you look around and you see a lot of young guys who are potentially ready to contribute,” Hahn said. “The expanded roster might give us the opportunity to allow some of these guys to get that their feet wet early.”
Teams will have the ability to put 30 players on the active roster during the first two weeks of the season, 28 during the second two weeks and 26 after that.
Asked about his newfound pitching depth, manager Rick Renteria sounded open to a variety of options.
“Maybe it puts us in a position where we’re able to be a little bit more creative and take advantage of these guys,” he said. “Fortunately for us, they’re healthy. They’ve been working. And so we’ll have a lot of tough decisions to make. But they’re good decisions that we’ll have to make as we move forward.”